Music Showcase Schedule

The complete low-down on this year's nominated acts

Darin Gray
www.fvrec.com/daringray
With a résumé that reads like a history of Midwestern experimental rock, bassist Darin Gray has little to prove and ideas to burn. While with the Dazzling Killmen, he shook out the heaviest hardcore rhythms this city has felt since the quake of 1811; alongside Chicago avant-gardist Jim O'Rourke, he's driven fissures into post-jazz; and with Grand Ulena, he's terrorized Wilco fans who still wince at the memory of the band's opening slot on the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot tour. He remains an uncompromising provocateur and a fierce defender of music as the freest of expressions. (RK)

Best National Artist

Bennie Smith
9 p.m., 609
Jennifer Silverberg
Bennie Smith
9 p.m., 609
Johnny O & the Jerks
9 p.m., Halo Bar
Johnny O & the Jerks
9 p.m., Halo Bar
Delmar Loop

Living Things
www.livingthingsmusic.com; www.myspace.com/livingthings
Lillian, Eve and Bosh Berlin (or Rothman, if you prefer) are perhaps the hardest of our hard-rocking native sons, a post-glam metal band with disco hooks (check the mad catchy drum-'n'-bass bump of "Bom Bom Bom"), political rants and a marketing machine as big and as effective as the S.S. Titanic. If they've squandered their chance at world domination, they haven't squandered their undeniable talents: The ferocious sound of Ahead of the Lions — part Guns 'n Roses, part Nirvana — lives up its title, not to mention those Rolling Stone and Spin notices. (RK)

Son Volt/Jay Farrar
www.jayfarrar.net; www.myspace.com/jayfarrar
Jay Farrar once tried relocating to New Orleans, but if he knows anything, it's his roots. He's an ardent defender of the St. Louis area, and his songs often capture the decay and glory, the poison and pearls, of this Midwestern outpost. If his musical concepts often look back to blues, country and '60s rock, his lyrical visions are always miles ahead, always beautiful and mysterious, even when unfathomable. Last year, his resurrection of Son Volt reconnected him with the most furious of collective rock & roll dynamics. Next year is anybody's guess. (RK)

Nelly
www.nelly.net; www.myspace.com/nelly
Guilty pleasures of the year (so far): Snakes on a Plane, our "Without Me It's Just Aweso" T-shirt and Nelly's "Grillz." Sure, the song's a total style-over-substance thing, but it takes skill to make a track about optional orthodontia sound so tight. With verses from fellow Lunatic Ali, the Dungeon Family's Gipp and ultimate ice-man Paul Wall, this heavily rotated single is more pleasure than guilt. And one thing we'll never feel ashamed to admit? We love Nelly — then, now and for as long as he keeps showing love to the Lou. The notion that Nelly "put St. Louis on the map" is true but stale; what really matters is that, despite going multi-platinum, Nelly gives abundant time, talent and money back to his hometown. In an age of me-first musicians, Nelly's generosity and humility are as refreshing as they are rare. Smile for us, daddy! — Brooke Foster

Caleb Engstrom
www.myspace.com/calebengstrom; www.calebengstrom.com
Like fellow Right Place labelmates Berry, Caleb Engstrom has solid ties to across the river (he attended college in Greenville, Illinois, to be exact). But the young Engstrom also once interned at Tower Grove's SCOSAG — giving him enough ties to St. Louis to consider him one of our own. Of course, we're happy to claim anyone this talented: Engstrom's 2005 album, Building Day One, features mournful piano, skeletal folk and searing, vulnerable vocals riddled with the ghosts of heartbreak and loneliness. (AZ)
6 p.m., Blueberry Hill's Duck Room

So They Say
www.sotheysaymusic.com; www.myspace.com/sotheysay
Some blame MySpace for the demise of society, but you won't hear such complaining from So They Say, who earned a deal with Fearless Records in part owing to that label's president messaging 'em his phone number. The quintet's full-length debut, Antidote for Irony — a slick platter of emo-screamo-punk nuggets — demonstrated that the online attention was well-justified, although an increasingly confident live show is So They Say's biggest secret weapon. (AZ)

Best New Band

Rats and People
www.ratsandpeople.com; www.myspace.com/ratsandpeople
Late at night below deck, the crew of the Rats and People pirate ship gathers to play their music. The old wooden boat creaks and sways as they duck down out of the sea spray to weave tales of travels, love and loss. Standard guitar and drums are layered with trumpet, violin and other instruments that will play in the wet, salty air. Their sound mixes in the drunken glory of the Pogues with the storytelling skills of the Dead Milkmen. The warm candlelight illuminates an unlikely ensemble band, ragged and strong on the open sea. (JL)
9 p.m., Riddles Penultimate Café & Wine Bar

Finn's Motel
www.myspace.com/finnsmotel
Finn's Motel is the new project of Joe Thebeau, a sometime-guitarist for Magnolia Summer and a lifer on the St. Louis rock scene. (Old-timers will remember his '90s act, the Finns.) Thebeau's cred clearly speaks volumes: His band is considered one of the city's best new acts despite playing only one live show and not releasing its debut, Escape Velocity, until September 19. The preview tracks show a band following the proud Midwest tradition of loud, jangly guitars, smart hooks and intelligent lyrics. (CS)

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